The Independent and National Electoral Commission (INEC) has stated that the smart card reader which was introduced into Nigeria’s political space in 2015 has lost his efficacy as politicians have found a way to manouvere it.
Speaking at Nigeria Civil Societies Situation Room (NCSSR)’s review of the Kogi and Bayelsa states governorship elections in Abuja yesterday November 27, INEC National Commissioners Festus Okoye and Haruna Mohammed said they lack the power to cancel the recent elections in the state even with reports of violence.
They however averred that the election can be upturned by courts if there is proof of over-voting via voter register and election results.
“We must also find solution to the issue of smart card reader. The smart card reader has. lost its efficacy. The smart card reader has lost its vibrancy in relation to the electoral process, because the political elite has found a way around it.
“So, rather than use the smart card reader, they just ignore it, because ultimately, they know that when they get to the court, what the court will be saying is that: ‘you want to prove over voting? We want to see the voter register and we want the INEC forms and not the smart card reader’.
“So, as far as I am concerned, the smart card reader has become a redundant instrument and inconsequential,” Okoye said.
On the call for the reform of the electoral process, Okoye said: “My understanding of electoral reform is that electoral design alone cannot solve our electoral challenges unless we have a concomitant underpinning of the democratic spirit.
“Unless the political elite in this country believes in democracy and democratic processes, even if you amend our laws 20 times, it will not solve the problem.
“On whether INEC could have cancelled the election, Section 26 of the Electoral Act gives the Commission the power to postpone, not cancel. To postpone an election before the election starts.
“There is no provision of the law that gives the Commission the power to cancel. The law gives the Commission the power to postpone an election and go back if the condition has improved.”
Okoye also accused the courts and politicians of impeding INEC’s effort to sanitize the electoral process. He also recalled how some Judges upturned valid decisions made by the electoral commission.
“In two senatorial zones in Imo State, in one federal constituency in Benue, in one state constituency in Niger, in one state constituency in Akwa-Ibom, we made the point that the returning officers for those constituencies announced the results of the elections under conditions that were cloudy and we decided to withhold the certificates of return for those constituencies.
“They simply went to court and the court said the moment a returning officer has made a return, only a court of law can reverse whatever return he has made.
“Just before the elections, the political parties were asked to submit the names of their candidates and the list of their candidates. Around seven of the political parties, or is it 14, submitted the names of underage candidates to the commission.
“And we said those nominations were invalid, and we said we are not going to take them because we believed, that we are a regulatory commission and that since the Constitution says only a Nigerian by birth can contest governorship election, that it will be irresponsible for the commission to sit back and then a Chinese national will be nominated to contest a governorship election.
“And it is in an affidavit and the person said I am from China or somebody is nominated and he said he is 25 years old. And there is an affidavit backing it, then we sit back and do nothing. So we wrote to the political parties and said your nominations are invalid.
“They went to court and the court said no, before we can even remove the name of an underage candidate or before we can remove the name of a Chinese, if the person has been nominated, we must come to court. and get permission before we can take action,” Okoye said.
Mohammed, who supervised the Kogi election said: “They are saying we should have cancelled the Kogi election. This is something we have done before.
“But, the problem is that if you cancel, you do not have any guarantee that it will not be worse the next time. So, how many times are you going to cancel elections?,” he said.
The Nation reported that INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu insisted that no amount of reforms would address the challenges associated with elections unless the politicians change their ways .
“The basic problem is that of attitude. No matter how many reforms we do, so long as the politicians behave with impunity and get away with it
“This attitude thing is one of the problems. I don’t know how we are going to change it. Because even if you have the best laws. you have the best Constitution, the problem will still persist
He noted that the politicians are emboldened to act with impunity because “no penalties are provided in the electoral laws for most of the offences.
“For instance the pasting of candidates’ posters and banners on public buildings and infrastructure as was the case in Kogi State, which amounts to using government’s resources to advertise, there is no punishment for that kind of act.
“Anytime you do a reform, it seems that any solutions you come up with, another set of problems will come and overshadow them.”